Pooches Need Protection in Divorce Too

 

phoenixThe State of Alaska is joining several other States in introducing new legislation to protect dogs that are caught in the midst of their owners’ divorce or domestic violence incidents.

Family law lawyer and Democratic House Representative Max Gruenberg sponsored the bill with unanimous support from both sides of the aisle. Its provisions include expanding the definition of “essential personal items” to include pets and permit victims of domestic violence to retrieve their pets as they would any other personal items.

It would also require owners to pay for the cost of animals seized in cases of neglect; allow courts to include pets in domestic violence protection orders; and provide authority for custody arrangement for pets during divorce cases.

In 2007 California and Illinois passed laws to protect pets after concluding that spouses and partners in abusive situations were often reluctant to leave their abuser, fearing their pet would become their abuser’s next victim in retaliation for their departure. When victims of abuse leave their abusive situation and go to safe houses they are rarely able to take their pets with them. Thus, this law authorizes animal shelters to care for these pets during this time.

In California, even before the law was passed, courts were permitting applicants for domestic restraining orders to include family members in the order, which included pets. I have not seen such terms in protection orders in British Columbia, but I am aware of orders awarding the care of a pet to one of the parties pending a final decision in a divorce case.

As a pooch owner, I understand why separating couples fight as hard over their pets as they do the financial aspects of a case. Our pets are beloved family members and as any dog-owner will attest: our pets know when there is trouble in the home.GAL & PAL #2jpgGAL & PAL #2jpg

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

A Merry Christmas for Two Innocent Men Set Free in December 2015

BarristerAs Franz Kafka wrote in “The Trial”:

“It’s only because of their stupidity that they’re able to be so sure of themselves.”

While Vancouver’s wrongly convicted Ivan Henry spent weeks in court this year seeking compensation due to a disturbingly flawed police investigation; a prosecutor whose focus was on winning, not achieving justice; and an arrogant jurist, more innocent men around North America were set free from prison after decades of wrongful imprisonment. The numbers are staggering, but their stories are similar. Here are two tragic examples.

Native American Marvin Roberts of Anchorage, Alaska was 19 years old in 1997 when after eleven hours of police interrogation he admitted killing 15-year old John Hartman who died after being beaten, kicked, and sexually assaulted on a lonely Anchorage street. Three other companions were also arrested, charged, and all were convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences. They were nicknamed the “Fairbanks Four”. Mr. Roberts received a 33-year sentence.

Alaska’s Innocent Project was eventually able to prove they were wrongfully convicted resulting in their release from prison on December 18, 2015. But in exchange for their freedom, the prosecutor’s office extracted an unconscionable concession from each of them, namely, that none of them could bring claims for compensation for the decades they spent in jail. Factors leading to their convictions included mistaken witness identification; later recanted, false forensic evidence; perjury; false accusations; and the misconduct of officials.

Floyd Bledsoe, age 23, of Oskaloosa, Kansas also lived the nightmare of a wrongful conviction for the murder, rape, and kidnapping of 14-year old Zetta Camille Arfmann, his wife’s younger sister, who lived with Floyd, his wife, Heidi and their two children.

After a neighbourhood search for Zetta, Floyd’s brother, Tom Bledsoe, discovered her body and produced the murder weapon. He then called his pastor and admitted to the crime, begging for forgiveness. He also admitted his guilt to the local police, before recanting and accusing his brother Floyd of the horrendous crime, explaining that his initial confession was in response to Floyd’s threats that he would release embarrassing information about Tom to his family and friends.

Floyd and Tom’s father, Floyd Bledsoe Sr., provided an airtight alibi for Tom, as did witnesses for Floyd. Astoundingly, Floyd was convicted of all charges and given a life sentence plus 16 years, despite a complete lack of forensic evidence against him. The prosecutor proffered evidence at trial that the rape kit did not produce any DNA results.

Floyd’s multiple appeals were unsuccessful until one appellate court ruled that mistakes made at trial by the prosecution, that went unchallenged by Floyd’s lawyer, were grounds for vacating the conviction. He was released from prison, but after the prosecutor’s successful appeal, he was returned to complete his prison sentence.

To the rescue was Kansas University’s School of Law Innocence Project who in the course of their investigation discovered an agreement between the prosecutor, the county sheriff, and a representative of the FBI, that no DNA testing  on the rape kit would be performed, calling into question the prosecutor’s statement that the rape kit was negative for DNA.

Once Floyd’s lawyers were able to obtain DNA testing on a vaginal swab and the rape kit,  it was determined these items contained the DNA of Tom Bledsoe and excluded Floyd Bledsoe. DNA on Zetta’s socks from Floyd Bledsoe Sr. indicated he had likely assisted Tom to pull the body to its final resting spot.

A month before Floyd’s conviction was vacated, Tom Bledsoe committed suicide, leaving notes admitting he raped and murdered Zetta and apologizing for betraying his innocent brother.

Floyd spent 15 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. Again, prosecutorial misconduct together with ineffective legal counsel, and perjured testimony played a role in the injustice that befell Floyd.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Alaska Introduces Pet Custody Laws

phoenixIs it just me or does it seem there has been a pet explosion in North America? The American Pet Products Association reports that pet owners spend almost $60 billion dollars a year on pet industry products for their four-legged friends.

There certainly can be no doubt that our pets are a part of the family and like children, they are often overindulged. Little outfits, santa claus hats and hallowe’en costumes for our cats and dogs are old hat, now you can pay for pet massage, pet travel agents who arrange transportation for pets, snake-training for pets, and pet funerals.

Of course, pet owners are now also litigating who gets to keep their beloved animals upon their separation and you’d be amazed how often pets become a major issue in divorce matters. So much so that there are now lawyers who only do “pet law”.

So it is not surprising that several jurisdictions are considering amending their legislation to include laws governing pet custody after marriage breakdown.

Alaska appears to be the first state to introduce a bill that would deem “pets” to be divisible family property upon divorce, with the best interests of the pet as the guiding principle.

Representative Liz Vazquez introduced the bill, with bipartisan co-sponsorships.

The bill defines animal as vertebrates, such as dogs and cats, and specifically excludes fish.

It also would add a pet-related section to the rights of victims of domestic violence, allowing abuse victims to file a petition with the court to obtain custody of an animal living in the same household as the abuser and/or preventing the abuser from disposing of the animal. So many times I have heard stories of pets being abused, stolen, or worse, as retaliation for a relationship gone bad.

With North American’s zest for pets, these laws will likely be introduced in other states and provinces. Needless to say, pet litigation should be avoided and separating pet owners should work out a schedule to accommodate the sharing of their pet. Just like shared parenting!

PS The puppy pictured above is Phoenix, a cockapoo, age 8.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Guest Post: The Era of the “Green Rush”: Is Legalized Marijuana a Fiscal Bonanza?

As of January of 2014 there are still only two states of twenty American states that have legalized medical marijuana that also permit recreational use as well; Colorado and Washington. These two states, in many ways, will set the stage for other states that are hesitant to embrace legalized recreational marijuana.

Early reports from Colorado indicate that state is generating a successful tax revenue stream since the so-called “green rush”, however, not everyone is sold on the idea of marijuana being widely available to adults, and more available to teenagers.

The marijuana “green rush” is about the thousands of inventors, investors and John and Jane Doe Public buying into the marijuana industry. In states where marijuana is not regulated the revenue that is generated is through the underground marijuana market which provides no fiscal benefit to government coffers. With a fully regulated system, states could see millions of dollars in new revenue, not to mention increased sales from consumers purchasing new inventions and devices created to make the smoking experience more pleasurable. [1]

This boost in the Colorado economy can also help create jobs and new sources of revenue, a significant motive for legislators in other states to consider. In 2012, the Colorado Center on Law & Policy made predictions on the possible financial impact that recreational marijuana could make saying, “the passage of Amendment 64 could be a boom for the state economy. Marijuana legalization would produce hundreds of new jobs, raise millions for the construction of Colorado public schools and raise around $60 million annually in combined savings and revenue for Colorado’s budget.” [1]

Predictions on the potential revenue to be earned in Colorado is on target as sales began in January of 2014. During the first week of retail sales, marijuana dispensaries earned and exceeded the $5 million mark. [2] The state has projected annual sales to reach around $600 million, and estimates $70 million in tax revenue.[2]

The legalization of recreational marijuana is still a hot topic in which supporters and opponents have battled back and forth in regards to the pros and con, especially the message it sends to adolescents and young teens. Critics of Amendment 64 are fearful of the potential greater access that legalized marijuana could have on teens. (Lyman, 2014) [3]

For years, lawmakers have claimed marijuana is not only a harmful drug but one that can lead to a harder drug use over time. There have been serious flaws in both these theories as no study has concluded that marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol. In fact, studies have found the opposite, concluding that marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco and has statistically less health endangering consequences. [1]

Many parents are also on board with marijuana regulation and agree it would be better if their teens were getting the drug from a safer source such as a dispensary, if they choose to use marijuana in the first place. Regulatemarijuana.org is a website dedicated to campaigns that support marijuana regulation and is supported by parents, and even former police officers in Colorado.

Dr. Erika Joye, a nationally certified school psychologist working with the campaigns quotes, “Marijuana prohibition is the worst possible policy when it comes to keeping marijuana out of the hands of teens. If we do not regulate marijuana across the board, we are guaranteeing that sales will be entirely uncontrolled and that those selling it will not ask for ID. We are also forcing consumers into an underground market where they are likely to be exposed to other, more harmful products.” [4]

It is clear that Colorado and Washington are setting the stage for the rest of the country, with the New York Times predicting that Oregon and Alaska will be next.

Sources:
[1]Ferner, M. (2012, August 28). Why marijuana should be legalized: ‘regulate marijuana like alcohol’ campaign discusses why pot prohibition has been a failure. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/28/why-marijuana-should-be-legalized_n_1833751.html
[2]Ferner, M. (2014, January 8). Colorado recreational marijuana sales exceed $5 million in first week. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/08/marijuana-sales-colorado_n_4552371.html

[3]Lyman , R. (2014, Feb 26). Pivotal point is seen as more states consider legalizing marijuana . New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/27/us/momentum-is-seen-as-more-states-consider-legalizing-marijuana.html?_r=0

[4]Unknown. Moms and dads for marijuana regulation post yes on 64 billboard . (2012, June 28). Retrieved from http://www.regulatemarijuana.org/news/moms-and-dads-marijuana-regulation-post-yes-64-billboard

This article is a guest post by BRENDA ABBOTT, Executive Assistant at Saint Jude Retreats, an alternative to traditional substance use treatment. Saint Jude Retreats provides a program for people with substance use problems that concentrates on self-directed positive and permanent change. Saint Jude’s offers the opportunity for individuals to self-evaluate and explore avenues for life enhancement. Brenda enjoys doing research and writing articles, spending time with her family, and is currently beginning to write her first book.